In today’s Behind the Biz interview we’re diving into the world of healthy but unruly snacks.
Where did the inspiration for Real Handful come from?
My wife Carly and I both work in food & drink and we were getting a bit fed up with how polarised snacking had become, particularly when you’re on the go. It was either indulgent or the latest miracle health snack. We wanted to go back to basics and create a range of snacks that were fun and delicious to eat but packed in the natural nutrition to keep you fuelled afterwards – hence Real Handful was born!
How did you decide upon the name of your brand?
Well there was no big research project or expensive marketing agency creating a brand for us that’s for sure! The name Real Handful popped into my head as I was walking the dog one day and thinking about this snacking opportunity we wanted to explore. It felt perfect so I registered the business that weekend even though we didn’t get going properly for another 2 ½ years! I still absolutely love the name and we’re doing everything to make being a ‘Real Handful’ a bigger part of the company culture and attitude.
How did you approach your first stockist?
We made some trial stock in 2015 and worked with some distribution partners in Manchester and London. Our first ever stockist in the world was a crafts cafe called ‘Create It’ in my local village Cheadle who were after some new snacks to offer customers alongside coffee. But more than anything I think they just took pity on a local chap dragging a bag of stock round with him! We still pop in for a catch up with them when we can.
What did you do before starting Real Handful?
I started out in IT but after 4 years made the jump into Food & Drink and I’ve never looked back since. I was very lucky to get an opportunity to join innocent drinks and having spent time with them also had stints at Kellogg and Heinz before launching Real Handful. I absolutely love working in the food & drink industry, it’s so tangible and such an awesome community to be part of.
Did you always plan to be self-employed?
I’m not sure. I certainly don’t feel like a born entrepreneur in the Richard Branson mould but equally I was never daunted by the prospect of working for myself as I prepared to launch Real Handful – although it definately makes things like mortgages more complicated! I love creating and the best/easiest way to get to do that on your own terms everyday is by being your own boss. I love every opportunity I get to work on Real Handful, it’s rare that it leaves my mind.
Please share a business high and low with us.
Getting the email confirming our launch with Sainsbury’s last year was an epic feeling. There was noone in the office and I remember just dancing around and punching the air with tears in my eyes for about 5 minutes! It’s created an incredible platform for us and one we don’t take for granted. We learnt a lot from launching with Sainsbury’s last year and we’ve been working even harder over the 12 months since to up our game!
The lows are constant and frequent when you’re growing something with grand ambitions so rather than focus on a particular instance all I’d say is do your best to anticipate them and never waste energy dwelling on them. Put them down, replan to fix and kick on again.
What role does social media play for your business and do you have a favourite social platform?
Of course it’s an important communication channel and a great way to see how people are interacting with the snacks and the brand. But as we primarily make snacks sold in physical stores it can feel disconnected from the purchase occasion. To that end we just try and make social a space that’s true to the brand and gives people an opportunity to follow what we’re up to and have some fun ahead of seeing us and picking us up in store.
With that in mind I’d say Instagram is definitely our favourite platform. It’s very visual which we love and stories allow us to share our journey in more detail.
What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?
Just be the best you that you can be and make the most of your strengths whilst being conscious of the tools and people that can help support your areas of development.
For example I face the challenge that I’ve got three kids, a wife and a dog so I’m not in a position to be pulling 20 hour days, seven days a week, building the business. But I have 10 years experience of food & drink so I focus running the business smartly and effectively to make things happen in the time I have available and I know that having a family brings a great balance to my life and a respite from the pressure of work that others might not have. I try and encourage the same from the rest of the team at Real Handful and I think, and hope, that this balance is reflected in the way we work with all our customers and suppliers.
Where do you hope to take your business in 2018?
Staring a food business is a slog. We’ve made plenty of mistakes in our first two years but we’re learning all the time and we’ve had a big refresh of our range and brand in 2018. We can already see a massively positive impact from this. So my intention is to end 2018 on a massive high knowing that we’ve built a sustainable business and with some MASSIVE plans locked down for 2019. More customers, more awesome new products, more sales and more unruly flavour and behaviour!
Thank you so much to Joe for taking the time to be involved with Behind the Biz. I really enjoyed hearing about his business journey with Real Handful and can’t wait to see the biz continue to grow.
I hope you enjoyed the interview and take note of Joe’s tips for aspiring entrepreneurs.